A product of the era of the metropolis and its transits, film expressed an urban viewpoint from its very inception. As Paul Virilio puts it: “Since the beginning of the twentieth century…the screen…became the city square.” Adressed primarily to urban audiences, early film fed on the metropolitan consciousness and unconsciousness.

From the depiction of foreign views to the simulation of traveling through space, filmic representation is never static. Not only do the subjects of urban views move. But the very technique of representation aspires to motion. A film like Panorama from Times Building, New York (1905), portrays New York’s aerial cityscape by first tilting upward and then panning across an urban bird’s eyes view. In panoramas like this, the camera strives for diverse viewing possibilities from the height of buildings or from different perspectival points in the city. . The genre was also attracted to the street motion of urban strolling and frequently represented the daily urban circulation of male and female dwellers.

Public circulation takes cinematic shape in these films, and the sidewalk becomes the site where gender openly dwells. In At The Foot of the Flatiron (1903), a film that records a street scene, architecture and body are more then metonymically conjoined as the camera scrutinizes the ankles of passing woman at the “foot” of the building. The camera catches the reactions of passersby of all sexes when, at the windy street corner, women’s skirts blow up, revealing even more flesh. 

From Atlas of Emotions: Journeys in Art, Architecture and Film – Guliana Bruno

 

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